Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Boats and Ships

The words “boat” and “ship” are often used interchangeably in a general context. After all, both refer to one or other form of a water vessel or a motorized craft that carries people or cargo across massive bodies of water. Ask an average individual and he’d probably say that a ship is relatively a larger vessel than a boat. In fact, the very first thing that comes to mind when talking about the difference between the two is the size of the vessel. People often think of ships as ocean-going vessels that sail the vast ocean and boats as fishing boats that the fishermen use to catch fish in the sea, river or a lake. However, there are some key distinction points that clearly separate a ship from a boat and vice-versa.

What is a Boat?

A boat is a small water vessel of a wide range of types and sizes, made to travel on water bodies, typically inland waterways such as rivers or lakes. Evidence suggests the humans first set foot on the waters as long ago as 16,000 BCE in Europe, Asia and Africa on four distinct forms of watercrafts: Dugouts, Rafts, Skin boats and Bark boats. The dugouts were considered to be the oldest forms of boats; in fact, the 3 meter long “Pesse canoe” is believed to be the world’s oldest known dugout boat. The boats have been used for transportation throughout history, but they have also been used for other purposes, such as commerce, travel, fishing, and so on. The boats we know from way back have evolved over the centuries as new technology allows for more advanced and daring designs. Typically, boats in the modern context can be divided into three fundamental types: manned boats, wind-propelled sailboats and engine-propelled motorboats.

What is a Ship?

Ships are among the oldest forms of transportation just like boats, and were believed to have been first built thousands of years ago. Unlike boats, ships are large ocean-going water vessels that sail the deep waterways carrying people and goods by sea. Throughout the history of sailing, ships have been largely used for transportation purposes, but also used for commercial fishing, sports, leisure, military purposes, etc. Ships are relatively much larger than boats, but there is no universally acknowledged distinction between the two forms of water vessels. The majority of ships that roam the water bodies include military vessels, cargo ships, container ships, oil tankers, crude carriers, chemical carriers, passenger vessels, yachts, and so on.

Difference between Boats and Ships


– The main difference between the two is the size of the vessel. A boat is a small water vessel of a wide range of types and sizes, capable of carrying smaller loads. A ship, on the other hand, is a significantly larger vessel that sails the vast oceans, and is capable of carrying people and goods by sea.

Operational Area

 – Boats are typically made to travel on water bodies, typically inland waterways such as rivers or lakes or near-shore areas. They are designed to work on restricted water areas. Ships, on the other hand, are seafaring vessels that typically travel and work on the ocean.


 – Boats can be categorized into manned boats, wind-propelled sailboats and engine-propelled motorboats. Boats are small enough to be carried aboard a ship. Boats typically include fishing boats, deck boats, dinghy boats, houseboats, bay boats, runabouts, bowrider boats, and more. Ships, on the other hand, are mainly classified based on the cargo they carry as bulk carriers, passenger ships, oil tankers, naval ships, service vessels, and so on.


– Boats are simple water vessels with a simple design and lesser machinery and design complexities. The hull is the main structural component of the boat, at least in most cases, which makes up for capacity and buoyancy. Boats are usually easier to build and they are cheaper with no bells and whistles. Ships, on the other hand, are modern water vessels with complex design and machinery involved, along with the modern tech for safety, stability, and navigation. Ships are exceptionally durable vessels designed for carrying heavy cargo loads and sailing the high seas across long distances.


 – One of the major differences between a ship and a boat is the crew. The former is a large, complicated vessel that requires a team of skilled technicians, sailors, navigators and engineers to operate. And there’s a high-ranking official called the captain who is responsible for the safety of the ship and its crew. A boat’s crew, on the other hand, depends on the size of the boat. It can be just one person or a team of multiple members depending on the size of the vessel and its purpose.

Boat vs. Ship: Comparison Chart


In a nutshell, a water vessel with only one deck is a boat, whereas a vessel with more than one deck can be considered as a ship. Technically speaking, ships are large, durable and advanced water vessels with exceptionally larger load carrying capacity and with all the advanced machinery and technology for safety and navigation. Simply put, a ship can carry one or many boats whereas a boat cannot carry a full-fledged ship. A boat has a relatively simpler design with complex machinery and technology involved, and a limited crew of a fewer people, depending on the size and purpose of the vessel.

Latest posts by Sagar Khillar (see all)

Sharing is caring!

Search DifferenceBetween.net :

Email This Post Email This Post : If you like this article or our site. Please spread the word. Share it with your friends/family.

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

References :

[0]Catsambis, Alexis, et al. The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print

[1]McGrail, Sean. Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print

[2]Soniak, Matt. “What’s the Difference Between a Boat and a Ship?.” mentalfloss.com, Mental Floss, mentalfloss.com/article/33557/what%E2%80%99s-difference-between-boat-and-ship. Accessed 12 May 2021.

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cruise_ships.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BOATS_AT_THE_SEA_BEACH_PERIYATHALAI.jpg

Articles on DifferenceBetween.net are general information, and are not intended to substitute for professional advice. The information is "AS IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury. You agree that we have no liability for any damages.

See more about : ,
Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Finder